Safeco Field offers few options to would-be hitters. Flyballs go for outs more often there than at nearly anyplace else. Strikeouts rise by 9 percent. Line drives have not fared as well in Seattle than they have elsewhere.
Seattle management, however, knows its surroundings and has carefully tailored its team thereto. Milton Bradley, Casey Kotchman and Chone Figgins will join Ichiro Suzuki in the M's lineup; the latter three are extreme groundball hitters. This self-awareness, and the creativity to exploit it, is what makes Seattle a breeding ground for real-life baseball innovation, not to mention big-time steals.
Bringing in the aforementioned threesome also went a long way toward fixing a serious, ongoing problem: In 2009, Seattle saw the third-fewest pitches per plate appearance in the AL. Bradley and, particularly, Figgins bring strong reputations as patient hitters.
Speaking of steals, Seattle runs aggressively, when they have the personnel on base - carryover from manager Don Wakamatsu's Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim coaching kleptomaniacal pedigree. Figgins will bat second and therefore have fewer steal chances but shouldn't be too badly hurt.
Wisely, Seattle pitchers have not been discouraged (and, in some cases, have been brought in) to induce flyballs hit by opposing batters. The team tied for the third-highest flyball rate in the AL.
Wakamatsu went into the 2009 season without a clear idea of who was his closer. Eventually, David Aardsma staked his claim to the job, but the skipper was forced to spread save chances around a bit. The right-hander was sidelined a couple of times, so Mark Lowe (13 save opportunities in 2009) remained a part of the mix. That may continue in 2010, especially with Aardsma's lack of track record.
Bar none, the M's have the best defense in MLB. Bradley is an underrated fielder slated for left field and should do well. Everyone knows what Suzuki in right and Franklin Gutierrez in center field: lockdown. The infield is good all around, with Jack Wilson's sutdly shortstop play leading the way.
About Matt Trueblood
Matt is a journalism student at Loyola University Chicago. The guest contributor is a featured Chicago Cubs columnist on the Bleacher Report as well as a contributor to hotstove.com. Matt envisions himself as both a writer and analyst and strives to deliver pieces that are both well-researched and thought-provoking. He work first appeared on KFFL.com in February 2010.
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